“I think, as a Black man coming into Kenan-Flagler, it wasn’t a very welcoming environment for me,” Fullerton said. “I don’t think Kenan-Flagler did a great job of creating systems and structures in place for Black students like me to feel welcomed in an environment.”
Fullerton said he questioned his decision to come to Kenan-Flagler for his first semester. He said if he had more financial support, he might have tried to attend a different school later on.
Harewood said she also questioned her choice to attend the school and that it was hard to navigate the spaces around her.
“It was hard fitting in with people, talking to people and seeing them pull away from you,” Harewood said. “It really took a toll on me. I showed up every day, and people didn’t know that it was really taking a toll on me.”
This experience led to students forming the BBSA to create a space for Black students to come together in the business school, she said.
The moderators asked panelists to share past work experiences where they felt discrimination, pressure or intolerance due to their race.
Terry said she worked a job in technology where the space was dominated by mostly male coworkers and very few African Americans. She said many of her coworkers ignored her or shared information with her indirectly through other coworkers.
“One time this man asked me, ‘Why are there more bad Black people than good Black people?’ Terry said. "And I couldn’t believe that he asked me that question."
Terry said experiences like those have remained with her ever since.
Dalrymple said coworkers assumed she was a secretary while she served as a cardiology researcher.
“I think when I was hired there, I was hired as a token,” Dalrymple said. “I was hired as the young Black female that checks a whole lot of boxes in the industry I was in.”
Dalrymple said she was overlooked for promotions and raises and decided to leave her job because of it.
Keyes said he felt isolated due to his race at a previous job and had to force his way into circles.
“It was really hard for me,” Keyes said. “Just that feeling of like, 'Why don’t these people want me around?' That feeling of, they don’t want me around because of what I was assuming was the color of my skin. The craziest thing about it was that it was a Black-owned company. It was really hard to deal with.”
Working toward allyship
The group then shared experiences where allyship made a difference in their lives. They spoke about the process of building connections with others in their lives and in the business school.
“I wasn’t even putting myself up for positions,” Keyes said. “I wasn’t even fighting for myself to have chances because I didn’t necessarily feel like I was capable of doing certain things. It really took other people fighting for me to believe that.”
Dalrymple said she felt supported by a Kenan-Flagler Business School staff member after a meeting where she felt racially attacked.
“I felt listened to,” Dalrymple said. “That’s all I needed in that moment.”
She said the coworker was a supportive ally who would challenge Dalrymple with difficult tasks and always guide her when she needed help.
“She was always a champion for me and understood the dynamics of being a Black woman in a white man’s space,” she said.
At the end of the event, moderators asked the panelists to comment on what the Kenan-Flagler Business School can do better to diversify students and combat racism.
Dalrymple said she thinks the business school could begin with racial equity training. She said others should be aware of what it means for a Black person to attend a prestigious school or program.
Harewood agreed and said creating spaces for conversations is important to further the development of diversity and stop racism in professional and academic settings.
“That’s something that I think the school lacks a little bit in terms of transparency and having these conversations more often,” Harewood said.
Fullerton said there needs to be structural change to foster a welcoming and diverse environment in the business school.
But he said that he feels more comfortable now than he did when he entered the school .
“I really think our class is becoming a class where I feel like I can be my authentic self,” he said.